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Proposed bike/pedestrian path gains support in Salem

SALEM — Selectmen are supporting a planned bike and pedestrian path plan that would take the path from the Windham line along the Route 28 corridor to at least the intersection of Old Rockingham Road and Route 28.

Voters will be asked to approve nearly $1.1 million for the project at the March 11 town election. However, the project would have no impact on property tax rates and would be paid for through a federal grant in conjunction with local matching funds raised by the Friends of the Salem Bike-Pedestrian corridor.

Salem will be administering the project under the oversight of the state’s transportation department, according to project engineer Greg Backus of VHB Engineering.

Earlier this week, Backus presented selectmen with several alternatives for the path. The board unanimously backed a plan that will run along the Route 28 corridor rail bed from the Windham line and cross the intersection at Range Road.

The project will include an improved pedestrian crossing at Range Road.

From there, the path will continue on the side of the rail bed away from Route 28 for a portion of the way to the Old Rockingham Road intersection.

Backus recommended that alternative because a portion of the rail bed is unusable because of wetlands issues. Once past the wetlands, the path could once again be built along the rail bed.

Depending upon available funds, the path could continue to the Main Street intersection.

Backus presented several other options for the portion of the path past Range Road toward Old Rockingham Road, including constructing a path with guardrails or cutting the path through Old Rockingham Road itself.

Neither of those options seemed optimal to selectmen.

Board Chairman Everett McBride said he did not support the Old Rockingham Road alternative, which would have been the least expensive option, because of the potential impact on the neighborhood.

Selectman Stephen Campbell said he thought the proposed path right along the highway would not meet all the goals of having a bicycle and pedestrian corridor separated from a main road.

Selectman James Keller said his major issue with the overall proposal is the impact the project will have on traffic on the Range Road intersection. Backus said the pedestrian crossing measures at the intersection will drop its level of service.

“I know that’s not what anyone wants to hear at this intersection or any intersection,” said Backus. “But I don’t see any way around managing a pedestrian crossing that is an exclusive (pedestrian signal) phase, without impacting the level of service.”

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